In light of the latest news that President Trump has overturned the FCC Internet privacy rules, discussions for and against virtual private networks (VPNs) have resurfaced. One of the biggest complaints with the repeal is that internet service providers are now legally allowed to sell your browsing data, if they’d like. While some ISPs have said that they won’t sell your browsing history for now, that doesn’t bar them from doing so in the future.
Proponents of VPNs believe that by utilizing such a service, you can obfuscate your browsing history so that your ISP won’t be able to build a “catalog” of your browsing habits. Opponents to VPNs dutifully note that by using a VPN service all you’re doing is migrating your browsing history from one ISP’s eyes to another. Browsing history data collection aside, benefits still exist by using VPNs, especially on your iPhone or iPad.
Why should I use a VPN on iOS?
Many iPhone and iPad users have come to believe that iOS as a whole is an incredibly secure platform. That may be true to an extent, but vulnerabilities still exist. More obviously, these vulnerabilities may not exist in iOS themselves but rather third-party apps that implement poor code.
A few months back we reported on how both Experian and myFICO mobile contained security vulnerabilities that potentially leaked user data onto connected networks. Simply put: launching your Experian app on iOS on an unsecured network meant your user credentials could be pulled maliciously. Once pulled, attackers could pull up all your personal and credit data linked to Experian.
In cases where third-party apps are insecure, using a VPN can add an additional layer for obfuscation. Instead of an attacker easily seeing your credentials, your credentials are now being passed through another network entirely.
Which VPN should I use on iOS?
This age-old question continues to be one of the more difficult aspects of VPN discussions. There are literally hundreds of VPN providers out there, but deciphering which to choose is one the most difficult challenges.
To begin, our first recommendation is do not use a free VPN service provider. Maintaining VPN data servers cost real money, so any company willing to offer free VPN servers to its users means it’s most likely selling that user data. Worse still, that “free” VPN provider may even not be actually securing your data but rather sending it out in the open.
The second recommendation is to not start with the App Store. Normally the iOS App Store is a great location to dive in and discover applications to solve problems you may have, but you should be extra careful here. In the case of VPN applications, you want to find one that hs been thoroughly vetted. Sites like That One Privacy Site have set out to build detailed comparisons against as many VPN providers as possible. Keeping in line with the President’s FCC ruling, looking for a VPN provider that doesn’t keep logs on data usage is a great start.
After that, we’d recommend testing out a few different VPNs for a few weeks. Different VPN providers have different experiences with data speeds depending on where their servers are located. In my personal testing, NordVPN has been fantastic for me and served as a companion when I traveled to South America last year. From our readers, we’ve received recommendations on Cloak, Private Internet Access, and Hide My Ass. By trying multiple different providers, you can learn which ones will offer a better overall experience for you.
Note: All four of the listed VPN providers above have well-built, and easy to understand iOS applications that directly integrate into iOS’ own VPN settings.
What’s next for VPNs and iOS?
Discussions around VPNs will continue to occur so long as security is in the forefront of user’s minds. Until Apple rolls out its own VPN similar to Google, users will have to rely on their own intuitions on which to pick from.
For a list of VPN providers currently offering discounts, check out our 9to5Toys’ Specials page. Remember to cross-check providers with other resources to make sure it fits your personal criteria.